Liking the (Funny) Messenger: The Influence of News Parody Exposure, Mirth, and Predispositions on Media Trust
This article features a multi-study research effort (Study 1 N = 331; Study 2 N = 317) examining how predispositions toward a humor source and the perceived humor (i.e., mirth) of a related comedic message can, together, influence media trust-based expectations. Noting the revered status and cultural prominence of various news parody show hosts, this article proposes that feelings of favorability for a news parody humor source (for example, Jon Stewart or John Oliver) can translate into positive perceptions of the press upon exposure to news parody messages. Drawing from principles of the heuristic-systemic information processing model (HSM) and affective disposition theory, the study findings indicate that one’s affective disposition toward a news parody source can have an indirect effect on media trust, as mediated by a feeling of mirth. Upon conducting a test of moderated mediation, the effect is demonstrated to be conditioned by one’s news parody orientation. That is, affective disposition’s mediated effect is most pronounced among those who are least inclined to see news parody as a legitimate/appropriate source of news. Ultimately, this exploratory research contributes to a more nuanced understanding of how news parody programming may influence perceptions of the news media as an institutional entity.